"What is the Best Thing About You?" An Exploratory Study of How Young Children Perceive Character Strengths
Degree GrantorUniversity of Canterbury
Degree NameMaster of Arts
The study of character strengths is a relatively new area of research within the realm of positive psychology. Character strengths likely develop during childhood and therefore studying young children's capacities for talking about their perceptions of character strengths is important. This thesis sought to use children's voices and conduct an exploratory qualitative study into children's capacity to talk about perceptions of their own and others character strengths. The purpose of the research was two-fold, first, to create a developmentally appropriate methodology for obtaining children's perceptions of character strengths, and second, if children had the capacity to talk about character strengths, to discover how they did so. Seventeen five-and-a-half to six-year-old children participated in individual interviews at their school. After a review of the methodological issues involved with obtaining children's voices in research, four developmentally appropriate strategies utilising a story, puppets, a photo and direct interviewing strategies were created. The four strategies were tested in a pilot study, revised, and then utilised in the main study. The strategies created were found to be developmentally appropriate, and assisted children to varying degrees to talk about their perceptions. At least one character strength was able to be inferred from all children's responses. Affiliation, kindness and self-regulation were the most identified character strengths. Results indicated the children were on the cusp of developing their sense of self and the ability to verbalise their positive internal attributes. Differences in the way children talked about character strengths are discussed in reference to child development and the social nature of character strengths.